Friday, September 21, 2007

In Response to Rachel Zoll’s “Meeting Held on Anglican-Episcopal Split”

I find it "bizarre and puzzling" that the Archbishop of Canterbury should be so confused at this particular stage in his journey. Perhaps he might spend a few hours with a good a respected and renowned theologian...hmmm...maybe his own? I find it puzzling and bizarre that a person could change so much within such a short time.

The good Archbishop wonders how far the Episcopal Church is willing to go to stay within the Anglican Communion. I wonder just "how far" he is willing to go to appease those within that same Communion who are so filled with hate. I wonder how far those who oppose gays and lesbians in this church are willing to go to get their way. I can visualize all the gays and lesbians, their friends and family in this church standing before these people who decided right and wrong. The place would have to be large because this church is full of gays and lesbians. I imagine these people who are only trying to live into the promise that was given them at their baptism standing there with their arms reaching up. Rather than being offered as sacrifices by those who have little to lose, they are offering themselves for the sake of those who deem them evil and abominations. Many in the Anglican Communion who would immediately cry out, Off with their heads! There are others who would plead for them to just be quiet; be good little girls and boys...go back into the closet, while others would cry disgracefully – why do you have to tell the truth? It is sometimes more difficult to imagine how many others would suddenly turn and say, “This is enough. It has gone too far for far too long.”

Gays and lesbians have drawn no lines but the line has been drawn. People can choose which side they want but if they don’t speak up now, they run the risk of being swept up in the rhetoric. Gays and lesbians in this church have given and have so much more to give – only because that is what we feel called by God to do - to give, to grow, to be within community, to raise our children within these God-walls – just like all the others who are in the church for the very same reasons. Yet we are rebuffed. We are denied. We are battered and bruised. We long for the day when those who hover near the center clearly state – This is enough. This has gone on for too long.

Katharine Jefferts Schori called being a gay or lesbian Episcopalian at this time a "crucified place to stand". I disagreed at the time because I did not wish to use that sacred comparison. Yet...each time our bishops meet; each time the Archbishop of Canterbury stands to offer his revered opinion, every time the Primates decide to issue a judgment, I feel just a bit as though I am tied and tethered lying beside the piles of sticks while the masses wait to hear whether or not they will be tossing me on the fire or untying the binds that tear at my flesh.

So, I wait with a certain amount of apprehension as these bishops sit together, hoping and praying that they will hold fast to their commitment of not going backwards. I wait in prayerful anticipation that they will remember that the ultimate sacrifice has already been made and that the only sacrifice required by being One is that we love one another as we love ourselves.

In the event that we do not know how to love ourselves – I pray that we love one another as God loves us…without fail...steadfastedly...regardless of our differing opinions.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Has Christ Been Divided?"

Yesterday, attending an absolutely wonderful adult forum on Human Sexuality at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, I was told by another parishioner that Bishop Iker would not mind us having the discussion that we were having. In fact, she went so far as to say that she felt that he would welcome our discussion. I pray that this is so.

Therefore, today, I bring up one of the daily readings in light of the impending meeting of the House of Bishops. Our bishop has proclaimed that he will attend only the beginning of this important meeting so that he might hear the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Episcopal Bishops’ response to him.

In the words of Paul to the Church at Corinth: 1 Corinthians 1:1-19 (NRSV)
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul," or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

As we all are sent out to proclaim the gospel, so may our servant brothers and sisters in the House of Bishops and may our brother Rowan do the same over this next week. May +Jack and all the others remember that Christ cannot be divided. Most of all may they all remember and cherish this promise:
“There is one Body and one Spirit;
There is one hope in God's call to us;
One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
One God and Father of all.”

The Lord be with you.
Let us pray.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Twisted Knickers

So the bishop’s knickers are all in a twist…too bad.

When I first read Bishop Iker’s web letter stating that the Bonnie Anderson meeting was “arranged without prior consultation” with him, I thought he was saying that he didn’t know about it. Well, that was just an out and out untruth. He not only knew about it but was invited to attend. That is readily provable in this electronic generation. But looking at the letter again, as the petulant whine that it is, it shows so clearly how pathetic life is in this diocese.

Over the past two months, I have spoken with several bishops. One I adore – but he just retired. Another I like and respect and am hopeful to engage in more conversation. Another I respect his position but do not agree with him on some major issues. Within each one of these bishops, I find a great amount of ethical reasoning. The stances they take, they take because they believe it is the right thing to do. I do not believe that any of them would lie to get what they want. I feel fairly safe in declaring that none of them would be reduced to the act of the petulant whine.

Bishop Iker does not care whether or not the Fort Worth Via Media contacts him. He considers them as less-thans, worthy only of his disdain. We are the “revisionist opposition”, a minority group of people who “dissent from the theological positions of this diocese.” He has no need of us. I am sure that he would rather we all get caught up in some sort of rapture or Bermuda Triangle type of thing.

Bishop Iker was only upset because “Mrs. Anderson” didn’t call him and say, ‘Bishop Iker, Right Reverend Sir’ I, your lowly servant, humbly request permission to enter the geographical boundaries of your most honorable regime.’ Then he would have boldly stated, ‘ Permission Denied!’ and gleefully gone his happy way.

As has already been so eloquently stated by Katie Sherrod in her, “Mrs. Anderson” did not need permission to enter this diocese, attend a meeting or talk to Episcopalians of the area. She is bound by no such canon. She is a lay person who came at the request of a group of people so desperately in need of an encouraging word. Bishop Iker actually ought to be glad she came. Her main message? “Saddle your own horse.” It is up to the residents of this diocese to do something about the bishop that we elected, not the national church. If, after we actually saddle that horse, we need riding lessons, then the church can help us. Until then…it’s up to us.

Bishop Iker seems to like this martyr role he has donned. He certainly has no problem pulling it on whenever he thinks it suits his purpose. He reminds me of our eleven year old when we get on to him harshly for something he has done. He assumes this hurt look as if to say – why would you do this, talk this way to your only son, your loving child who only wants to please you – forgetting of course that he was just told in no uncertain tones for the umpteenth time not to do whatever it was he just did, knowing full well he should not have done it in the first place. The only thing real to him at that moment is the hurt he feels because he thinks he has been unduly wronged by our disagreement. This is the stance that Bishop Iker assumes on a far too often occasion.

My sympathy levels for that assumption continue to dwindle. I never held empathy. I would not make a good psychologist. I do not make a good audience for one who perceives himself to be the victim while others are lying in heaps all around him, bleeding and ignored. His web letter reads as though he has not only been cast aside by the national church but also defecated upon. Since Bishop Iker was not at the meeting and Suzanne Gill (Director of Communications for the diocese) was there all day taking copious notes and pictures, it might have benefited him to have read some of her notes prior to writing his letter. He might have actually learned that the only concern of Fort Worth Via Media is how to remain within the Episcopal Church while its bishop lays claim to the idea that he can take the diocese out of that same church – or in his words, “Realign”.

It is time for the innuendo and outright lies to stop. Bonnie Anderson told the group meeting on this past Saturday to get organized. We are. We are called Fort Worth Via Media. We have been working on this since January 2004. Fort Worth Via Media are the ones organized enough to invite and bring Bonnie Anderson to this strange little land of outcast priests. The problem is that the minions of Bishop Iker, with or without his permission to speak but certainly not told to stop, have cast outrageous aspersions upon the character of not only the group at large but also of the individual members of the group. I think it is called character assassination. There are good people in this diocese – a goodly number – who do not agree with the bishop’s stance about “realignment” but have bought into the rhetoric of the diocese that we are a “revisionist” group opposed to the theological positions of this diocese. They have believed the clergy when some have stated that we are only out to replace the bishop, to undermine his “authority”.

Rather, our mission is stated fully and without innuendo on the website We are an organization made up of lay and clergy people within this diocese who are intent upon remaining within the Episcopal Church as full members. We have no need of a “church within a church” nor do we need to be realigned. If Bishop Iker and those who agree with him, regardless of how many of them there are, have a problem with the Episcopal Church and their perception of its tenets, well, just fine. Go and make a new realigned church. Do what you feel called by God to do. You are not the first nor will you be the last.

However, might I make a suggestion? Rather than praying that the Episcopal Church might turn back or change her stance, why not pray that you can better understand God’s will for your own life and ways? There might be just a couple of changes that need to happen in your own thought process.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Fundamental Differences

A friend of mine put forth the idea that Bishop Iker had every right – in fact, might have even felt compelled – to attend and participate within the consecration of his “good friend” Bill Atwood. She stated that if she had a friend and colleague that was being consecrated as bishop in whatever denomination or faith, she would feel inclined to attend and participate if asked. I can understand that type of friendship. It is the love of another, the putting aside of differences to be in unity for the sake of love itself.

Many people have used war type metaphors to describe the current situation in the Anglican Communion. I really detest that usage but I fully understand it. I mean, after all, we have several generations of people still living today that were raised in the “Onward Christian Soldiers” mode of religion. It is simple to say we are fighting a ‘battle’; we are marching “as to war” in this “fight” for the Glory of God. Having been raised in the Southern Baptist Church with mission – that is, saving souls for Jesus – a primary goal, all of the language is very familiar and it is extremely simple to relapse. None the less, I will attempt to refrain although it often feels as though I have been in a skirmish, for certain. Some of us - no, actually the entire church, are in a situation that calls for us to move forward, now rather than later. This place, just like the places before it, is a dangerous place.

If I had a friend whose fundamental ideology was so diametrically different to mine to the point that I felt her/his thinking and actions could do damage to the ideas and people for which I so vehemently worked, I cannot see that I could lend credibility to his/her endeavors by actively participating in her/his consecration. Attend...maybe, as a friend in the audience – no argument. Participate…no.

To participate in that consecration, one might assume that the one participating agrees with the reason for the occasion. This we know, Bishop Iker does indeed agree with the reasons for Bishop Atwood’s consecration. His letters, his sermons put forth that very belief. But was his participation at the consecration detrimental? In my opinion, yes. He is supporting something – an “agenda” that is harmful to not only me and countless other gays and lesbians in this church but also to our families and friends. For those seen as “the Church” to promote an agenda which allows some to perceive hatred as acceptable, it is not only detrimental but reprehensible. By his actions, he promotes a church that agrees with extreme punishment for its gay and lesbian members simply because he feels that we need to be sympathetic to their culture and the dilemma imposed by Islamic law. He supports a totalitarian system that disallows the God-crafted individual ability to read and interpret Holy Scriptures. He attempts to return to a time before the Reformation wherein the clergy were the ones to interpret – the people had only to listen and obey…or be excommunicated. Lastly and actually least important to my personal way of thinking, by his participation in this ceremony, he undermines the authority of the Episcopal Church by supporting a church that would take over its property without a blink of the eye. Or right. The people of those properties being taken are a moot point, not because they are undeserving but because they have already left the Episcopal Church by their own free will. The people who disagree with them have been cast off and aside. And has been repeated numerous times, people can leave the Episcopal Church; the property cannot.

To the question of whether or not the actions of the Anglican Church of Kenya/Uganda/Nigeria are actually detrimental to the life and way of the Episcopal Church, that depends upon whom one asks. Probably not to a whole lot of folks in the church as a whole. Life goes on. Schism happens. Just a day in the life. To a person living in a fairly conservative diocese with a bishop she or he likes and respects and who returns that feeling, one is probably not too threatened. To that person living in a diocese at risk of being one taken over by that foreign missionary bishop, it is another thing entirely. To the woman who sits in the pew Sunday after Sunday, living with the constant fact that she did not answer the call that God put to her because she had a husband, children and lived in a time when it took extraordinary efforts for a woman to be ordained, it is another story indeed. To the young seminarian abruptly kicked out of the ordination process because he made the “mistake” of falling in love and being open and honest about his life, it matters greatly. These are real people. They are not alone in Fort Worth. Nor are they only in Fort Worth. There are many more. To the scores of dozens who duck their heads and try to go on about life, this is just one more event in a long line of events.

Personally, I feel that the actions of ACK/U/N are very detrimental. It hardly matters which foreign church is consecrating which US missionary bishops. I believe that they have a true agenda of colonizing (oh, and yes, I do know that will raise the level of conversation for some). I believe that the ignorance and fears of a great many people are being played upon and exploited at the expense of a minority. And yes, they are a minority. Regardless of the fact that the Anglican Church in different countries in Africa are growing at amazing rates, this does not mean that this church is healthier or more holy or more scriptually in tune than the Episcopal Church. It means that people are starving and dying and have need of community, of a spiritual sustenance, of God. So, yes, of course they are growing. In times of strife, attendance in churches all over the world increases. Look at the church numbers after 9/11 here in the US. Is the growth good? Yes. Is it due to the holiness of the leadership and their homophobic rendering of Leviticus and Romans? No.

It is a given that 83% (or somewhere close to that) of the Fort Worth diocesan delegation votes each year at diocesan convention in favor of anything put forth by the bishop or his “people”. Maybe the number is even higher than that. It is also a given that the number of parishes demanding that they are not a part of the Network or the schismatic actions of the diocese are …well, just one or two. But how many have a fairly equal number of people pro and con? How many parishes have a good number of people who are not even aware of the fact that Bishop Iker went to Kenya or why? That does not mean that the majority of people in this diocese agree with the bishop’s stance on many issues. It does not mean that 83% of the 19000 or less in the diocese desire to leave the Episcopal Church because Gene Robinson is a bishop in New Hampshire. What it means is that many of the parish delegation votes are chosen by a select few within a parish and that these are basically the same people every year who cast the same “I support MY bishop” votes. Sadly, what it means is that there aren’t enough people in Fort Worth who are actually willing to do something about it…it is just easier to lie in the bed they allowed to be made for themselves.

Some can justify the idea that Bishop Iker was a participant in the consecration of Bill Atwood as a missionary bishop in the Anglican Church of Kenya. We can refrain from using war language. We can go on our merry ways, living our daily lives, hoping for a crumb under the table. We can be quiet, sit down, be good for now and just know that one day…some day in the future, the younger generation is just not gonna give a damn about the issue of gays and lesbians – or women for that matter – in the church. It will one day be a moot point. Meanwhile, we can choose to be suffering martyrs on down the road for a cause that will one day right itself, whether or not we kick and scream right now. (Did it ever occur for any to wonder just why it is NOT an issue for the younger people right now???)

Or. Or…we can talk about it right now. Right here. In the very place that we sit, stand or walk. At every opportunity. At every crossroad. Regardless of how many we “turn off”; no matter how many we push away or bore – chances are, those never really understood the oppression anyway and possibly never will. Chances are, many of those people don’t even see it as an issue of justice anyway. We may still wind up as martyrs…but at least we will actually have a reason for the martyrdom – at least in some eyes.

Yes, there are issues that seem so much larger. There are hungry and abused children everywhere. People live in homes that should not be allowed to stand, much less be lived in. Little girls are sold as maids, as sex slaves, as workers all over the world. Little boys live on the streets of South America and too many other places as prostitutes. Babies cry all over the world because their mommies are gone, working or dead to drugs or AIDS. There is pain and suffering everywhere. These are things against which we should be working.

Yet who are we to classify the suffering? Who are we – the privileged, the over fed and well watered, to determine which child of God is considered dispensable, less worthy than another? When we see it, can we judge it less important? When it stands in front of us, do we cast it aside as moot simply because there are other issues?

I have been told that I cannot be the do-all end-all person. Ok. I can realize that as a reality. My ego is not that large, nor my energy levels that high. I have been told that I need to choose between the many different ministry issues available. But what if I choose Justice? Is there any issue of hunger, dirty water, sale of children as commodities, poor housing, bad government, unbreathable air or poverty that is not one of Justice first and foremost? Does not the issue of oppressing people because they are gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgendered fit into that too broad category of Justice Denied?

It would be nice to just not talk about it; to believe that it is not an issue now because it won’t be one in the future however soon or far away. It would be wonderful to just go about serving in a parish or a diocese and just do the work that is before us – the so called “business of the Church”. I can assure you, gentle and not so gentle readers, I would love nothing more, regardless of what Bishop Iker describes as my penchant for seeking publicity and furor. I would love to just do the work that I so deeply desire to do – putting forth all my energy into helping overcome the fundamental issues that create an environment in which poverty can breed. So many people feel the same way, whatever their individual call. But we can’t get around this ‘non-person’ issue that is tossed in our faces at every opportunity, sometimes by friend and foe alike. We are not important enough. We are not worthy enough. We are not suffering enough.

Just how does one know when another’s suffering is enough? How do we find the scale to measure that? Is there a fundamental scale of measuring?

Fundamental differences too often mean the difference between life and death.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Is the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth Soon to Have a New Bishop?

I find it rather strange, that at this particular stage of the game, Bishop Iker would so blatantly whisk off to Kenya to attend the consecration in to the Anglican Church of Kenya of his "good friend and colleague" Bill Atwood. I am sure most know (even if they do not care) that Mr. Atwood is now the Missionary Bishop to the ACK here in the United States for all those who have disenfranchised themselves from the Episcopal Church -- at least those who desire to now be a part of the Kenyan church as opposed to the Ugandan or Nigerian one.

So, what is so strange about it? I mean really, it is all fairly obvious the direction that Bishop Iker is intending to go. If one needs a larger clue, simply go to the diocesan webpage and listen to the good bishop's sermon given on May 6, 2007 at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. He makes his will known in a fairly clear manner.

So, why has he been waiting? Surely not for the House of Bishop's meeting in September. I am sure he is already certain of that outcome. He has already stated that he will be there for the first part of it - that is the part where the HoB lets it be known whether or not they will abide by the demands of the Primates. He also stated that he would not be staying. Surprised? Why? He has been at so few meetings over the part two years. Fewer still in this past 12 month period. He gave up on the Episcopal Church long ago. He stopped participating in the one and only place he actually had any influence - amongst his peers.

Here is the point...when Bishop Iker was consecrated as a bishop, he swore to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. He has worked in such a grey area - he has not violated the doctrine, discipline or worship enough to the point that the powers that be within the Episcopal Church have felt inclined to actually do something about it. It is so much easier to ignore the elephant in the middle of the room rather than actually tell it it should go play with the other elephants. But now...has the elephant dumped enough waste into the room that others will finally begin to DO something?

These consecrations that just happened in Kenya...these are white guys that will be working in the US as missionary bishops for the Anglican Church of Kenya - not in Kenya - but here in the geographical territory of The Episcopal Church. Working not with new congregations, not planting new Kenyan missions but taking over parishes that have their existance purely because these are Episcopal parishes within an Episcopal diocese within the Episcopal Church.

Does this not smack of vow breaking? To participate in this consecration wherein the missonary 'bishops' will be able to return to the US so that they might help to break up the Episcopal Church?

So...I wonder if this is just what the Episcopal Church has been waiting for? I this what he has been waiting for?